With all the hot spices at work, the first couple forkfuls of Chicken Biryani ($7.99) are liable to leave your lips tingling.
But the downtown Thousand Kabobs packs in flavor with the flame — strips of scarlet tomato and glossy onion relieved the monotone texture, and the rice also helped mellow the heat.
So does the naan. You get way more than enough rice and spice for 8 bucks with this biryani and you can still pick up a freshly tandoori-ed naan round for $1.50 and stay under $10. Thousand Kabobs' tandoori bread is a lighter weight than some with a charred bottom and a soft, chewy topside. I liked it but honestly, Thousand Kabobs' biryani needs no sides. There's more than enough here for an average-to-ravenous appetite.
Four chopped sections of bone-on chicken lie buried in a large foam container of mostly white rice, with sparsely distributed flashes of fiery orange and saffron kernels. Dig out the chicken and you also disperse the clingy spice-packed sauce, which in turn makes the basmati come alive.
The chicken sections presented a lot more bone than meat, which might affront some American proportion sensibilities, but it's not at all uncommon where meat is more a luxury than it is here in the West.
For the most part, the chicken was tender enough to pull from the bone without a knife. On sections where that was not the case, the plastic utensils at Thousand Kabobs were no match, folding and bending rather than cutting. Logistically, the meat portion of this meal was challenging.
But as the spices permeated the rice, and the chicken sections were chucked, the dish produced much better samplings of the broad seasoning spectrum that makes biryani a cherished favorite. The long, delicate basmati carried distinct notes of turmeric, cumin, chili and cardamom. This recipe also seemed to use a nice savory accent of basil.
Thousand Kabobs operates in a tiny corner space with a short and narrow ordering/waiting space that sports an off-teal counter with four or five chairs in case you decide to eat in. Consider it more of a carryout place. The downscale charms fit the neighborhood. The woman behind the counter was friendly and accommodating. You could do worse.
The restaurant runs a fairly manageable menu. Several dishes, like the biryani, come with different meats or a vegetarian option. Samosas, kabobs, curries, tikka are available, along with a chicken burger and generic-looking fries.
Thousand Kabobs advertises Halal only. It doesn't seem to want to compete with the buffet places. Rather, it stands out as an inexpensive, grab-n-go, Pakistani and Indian purveyor without a lot of fuss and a decent turnaround from order placement to carry out.
Where: 218 N. Liberty St., Baltimore
Lunch hours: 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday
Lunch entrees: $5.99-$9.99